Felicity Palma is an international women's rights activist, documentary and fine arts photographer/videographer, writer and social media queen. Her nuanced work explores the intersections between illness as metaphor, social justice, and the female body.
2011 - Cum Laude, 2010 - Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, 2009 - Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship
arrived in Cape Town admittedly naïve to the great contradictions I would witness here. Apartheid may have ended 20 years ago, but the sense of a city divided by wealth and poverty, white and black, remains as strong as ever. After decades of enforced segregation, the remnants of Apartheid are permanently carved into the city's urban form, "the physical legacy of a plan that was calculatedly designed to separate poor blacks from rich whites," as Oliver Wainwright so aptly described. The city center, named the World Design Capital of 2014, is bourgey, affluent, so very white. I hardly knew I was in Africa. After a 25 minute drive, I would arrive in Nyanga each day, startled by the very obvious physical barriers that lay between the township and my sweet little Sea Point bubble - highways, railroads, rivers, golf courses, power stations, a sewage treatment plant. Apartheid may be over, but that doesn't magically undo decades of systematic oppression.
Two young men show off their braai smoking skills, excited to play subject for my camera. Greeting me with "Molo umlungu!" (isiXhosa for "hello white person"), they struck various poses before they got back to business. "Are you doing research here?" one asked me after I showed him the photos I had taken. "We only see umlungu here when they're doing research." Tell-tale of the segregation between rich & poor, black & white that still exists in Cape Town, 20 years post Apartheid.
Diagnosed in 2001 with HIV, Pelisa takes her daily antiretroviral, which she complains makes her feel depressed and ill. "Why do we have to take things that make us feel worse than we already do?" She only started taking ARVs after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, at the insistence of her doctor. She remains wary of how much good the pills actually do, but will do whatever it takes to stay alive and look after her two children. HIV affects a large percent of the black population in the townships of South Africa, where illness is often stigmatized, feared, and misunderstood. Pelisa now works with a grassroots community organization as a sex educator and staunch health advocate.